It’s a constant struggle, no? Everyone wants to play. Dirty Good Company likes to play in the dirt: on two feet or two wheels, on surf boards and yoga mats. Outdoor activity and simply letting go and having fun is an essential part of human experience. Paul and I know that getting dirty absolutely makes us feel good. I like feeling strong, I feel more alive after every happy, exhaustive ride, run or hike – and the dirt I have to scrub off just adds to my accomplishment. As so many pro athletes and humble adventurers understand, exercise builds a healthy mental state, too. Outdoor adventures also feed our curiosity and teach us lessons for life off the trail. Our days are far more positive when we take the time to get out and play.
Wanting, and needing, to play is not something to feel bad about. It’s no more selfish than wanting or needing to make money. Healthy, happy people add to a healthy, happy world. Yeah, I believe that, as trite or maybe naive as it sounds. In yoga we might use the word “sukha” to describe the fresh, blissful space of ease we find during play (su = good, kha = space). While traditional yoga philosophy warns against putting too much dependence on earthly pleasure, sukha is a state of quiet peace within ourselves that we can strive for. When I’m running a mountain trail, playing around with handstand on the grass, or even straining a bit to grind up a gravel road (sucking Paul’s wheel) I can honestly say I experience sukha. It feels like home, like a natural place for my body and mind. Playing hard brings us back to our primal, childlike and stripped-down state.
We chose to move into a mobile lifestyle in part to play hard. But also, in balance, to find work that allows us to do that. Actually, to force us to find work that will allow play. I am still developing income that will allow us to keep moving, but meanwhile we are both working hard in the best ways we can. A yogic term for hard work might be, “tapas,” which BKS Iyengar (one of the foremost figures in modern yoga practice) describes as, “…a burning effort under all circumstances to achieve a definite goal in life. It involves purification, self-discipline and austerity. The whole science of character-building may be regarded as practice of tapas.” We can talk about tapas in our yoga practice as a disciplined commitment to getting on the mat, mindfully and with intention, on a regular basis. But I like to think about this while I am pouring wine, prepping cheese plates and cleaning frozen yogurt machines at my current place of employment. I’ve accepted the hard work at this local shop as a means to an end. Paul is not crazy happy about all the online work he has found to bring home his own bacon (literally for him) but again, we keep reminding ourselves that it allows us to play hard, too. There’s a time and a place for both; balancing them together is a bit tricky and I can’t get in everything I want to, but hopefully some concentrated tapas for a while will allow some all-out play soon…
“Greater is thine own work, even if this be humble, then the work of another, even if this be great.” — Bhagavad Gita
Hard work can be enjoyable, too. And it should be! I want to create work that aligns with my priorities and convictions. We are putting in the time to focus our goals down to specific ways we can employ our dharma (our sense of purpose, righteousness) to make some kind of impact toward the greater good. Incessant brainstorming, list making, talking talking, talking… but less actual action than we would like. Sigh. Here is where our tapas and our sukha need to find a common meeting ground. We are afraid to take the wrong step, I think, but as Krishna counsels Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita (one of yoga’s foundational texts), “… in all work there may be imperfection, even as in all fire there must be smoke.” I’m okay with getting actual dust and mud and gravel in my shoes, but the dirt that comes with finding valuable work is harder for me to deal with. With the fiery discipline of tapas, we have to stay focused on what the long term goals are and just keep moving forward in our own way, finding hard work that is authentic and brings joy to ourselves, others and the planet. And that leaves room for that ever important PLAY.
On my yoga mat, I remind myself that the dedication to a daily practice (tapas) of listening to my physical and mental cues brings me daily peace and quiet (sukha). My practice is a lovely fusion of hard work and playful experimentation to see what kind of fun I can have with postures and sequencing. Be sure to make time for both.